Pop Quiz: Who Owns Apple?

Apple owners could be either Warren Buffett or our neighbors next door. In this article, the Apple Maven looks closer at the company’s largest holders to answer the question: who owns Apple?
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The other day, I heard a comment that caught my attention. To paraphrase it: “the people benefiting the most from this pandemic year are probably Apple’s owners”.

Apple is a huge public company. Therefore, most of us probably know that Apple owners could be either Warren Buffett or our neighbors next door.

In this article, I look at the company’s largest holders to answer the question: who owns Apple?

Lion’s share goes to institutions

Currently, 59.7% of Apple shares are held by institutional investors. To some, this may seem like a very large number at first. But compared to its closest peers, Apple’ institutional ownership is relatively small.

For example, Facebook’s ratio sits at nearly 80%. Within the FAAMG group, only Amazon’s institutional ownership is smaller than Apple’s, at just short of 59%. See comparison chart below.

About 40% of Apple’s owners are individual investors. Within this group, Chairman of the Board Art Levinson, with an estimated half a billion dollars’ worth of shares, is the largest holder.

CEO Tim Cook and COO Jeff Williams take the second and third spots, respectively. Unbeknownst to many, former US Vice President Al Gore comes in next.

However, as much as numbers like $500 million may sound like a lot, each individual investor owns less than 0.025% of Apple. In almost all cases, substantially less so.

Why do institutions own Apple?

It would not be unfair, therefore, to pick three institutions to represent Apple’s owners: Vanguard, BlackRock and Berkshire Hathaway. Combined, these three companies own one-fifth of the largest company in the world.

These three institutions can be considered money managers, depending on how one classifies Warren Buffett’s conglomerate. Vanguard and BlackRock own Apple primarily for the purpose of allocating them to ETFs (exchange-traded funds) and mutual funds.

For example, about 2.5% of Apple is owned within the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund, ticker VTI, while nearly 2.0% is in the Vanguard 500 Index Fund, ticker VFINX. About 1% sits in State Street’s SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust, ticker SPY.

Of course, many of the shares of these funds end up in the hands of individual investors, blurring a bit the line that separates institutional and individual investment.

Explore more data and graphs

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(Disclaimers: the author may be long one or more stocks mentioned in this report. Also, the article may contain affiliate links. These partnerships do not influence editorial content. Thanks for supporting The Apple Maven)